I am having an interesting interaction in the comments to this recent post about the ACOG convention. I am giving the commenter, Jasmine, the benefit of the doubt when she says she delivered one live birth and had one 24 week abortion with one of Dr. Jody Steinhauer’s friends as the health care practitioner. I do not have a comment policy that excludes discussion just for being, well, strange. Jasmine’s purported reason for commenting is to share her story, then justify abortion at all gestational ages based solely on the “absolute” bioethical principle of bodily autonomy. It seems suspiciously like a contrived straw man argument to me, presented as “devil’s advocacy” tempered with a little “I am the anecdote, so I am the universal truth” logical fallacy thrown in.
But even if Jasmine is someone who has had both a live birth and a subsequent elective 24 week termination, and thinks termination at all gestational ages is defensible due to bodily autonomy, and not a anti-choice troll posing as a cold, logical-fallacy calculating abortion advocate, there is room for her opinion. (Updated to add: She was an anti-choice troll. She linked to a Southern Baptist site as support, and then started leaving graphic, horrid comments about sucking out baby’s brains and killers and liars.) It doesn’t have to represent my reasons for being pro-choice. I don’t mind debate on my blog, obviously, but I really don’t think sparring over how absolute individual bioethical principles are is, well, all that important. I spent years in competitive debate. I can engage with the best of them. I have closed down more than a few comment section battles with my razor sharp management of argumentation (being a bit facetious here) and it really hasn’t saved anyone’s lives. Women are still dying from unsafe abortion and poor access to reproductive care. Children are still being orphaned.
Here is my reply:
Not everyone agrees about bodily autonomy being the only factor involved in this discussion, or that any bioethical principles are absolute. I don’t. Bodily autonomy is extremely important, but not absolute. Prostitution is illegal in this country (not that I necessarily think this is effective or ethical.) One cannot slash ones wrists in public without being restrained and committed.
Ethics is more complicated than that. I am not sure if you are trying to set up a straw man argument.
My argument for the support of abortion lies in humanistic concerns about reproductive rights and maternal death in general. It is actually the opposite of online debate on how absolute one bioethical justification is for abortion. It is acknowledging the reality of women’s lives – that they can be trusted to judiciously use birth control if it is accessible and affordable. That the 50% unplanned pregnancy rate and 22% abortion rate is not what women would choose if they had true free choice in this country. I think abortion is one reasonable health decision when faced with unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy with medical complications, but that does not mean that I do not also want to decrease unplanned pregnancy or complicated pregnancies!
I am not going to sacrifice real women to some sort of dry sparring in a comments section. 70,000 real women die every year due to restrictive laws and real barriers to safe abortion care. Bodily autonomy? Sure, important. But not as important as them.